When we last left Matt Ross, the former Dixon High School basketball standout was preparing to wow scouts from the Australian Professional League at a showcase in Las Vegas last month.
It took a little longer than expected, but Ross has now realized a lifelong dream of playing professional basketball.
On Saturday night, the former Sauk Valley Skyhawk and Chicago State Cougar signed a contract with Club Etha Engomis of Cyprus. He leaves for Europe next month.
“The first thing I said to myself was, ‘I’ve made it,’” Ross said. “Everything I ever worked for my entire life, it’s paid off. The next step is here, and I’m ready to take it.”
Ross said he “played great” in Las Vegas, and even though he didn’t end up signing with an Australian team, he and his agent pressed the flesh all throughout the week and made several new contacts.
He had offers from a couple of pro teams in Germany on the table, and Ross felt sure he would sign with one of them. But contract negotiations didn’t work out, and things went back to square one.
That lasted all of a day. Etha Engomis came calling the next morning, and the two sides agreed on a contract in short order.
“Basketball officially became a job for me,” Ross said, “but it doesn’t feel any different. I’m still going to be able to go out and play the game I love, and I’m going to play the best I can every second I’m on the court.”
Contracts for most players in European leagues run on a season-by-season basis, so Ross knows there’s a little bit of pressure to perform. But that’s nothing new for the 6-foot-8 forward, who helped Chicago State transition from the Great West to the more competitive WAC last season.
“I know in the back of my mind, I’ll always be thinking about what happens if I don’t play well,” Ross said. “But I’m looking at it more as if I play my game, the style I’ve been playing for years that got me to this point, the rest of that stuff will take care of itself.”
Etha Engomis’ season runs from September through February, at which point Ross may be transferred to another team in Greece to play 3 more months. After the season, he will see what the future holds.
But for now, he’s focused on finalizing his travel plans and getting acclimated to life – and basketball – in Cyprus … and cherishing every moment of it.
“I get to play basketball at the professional level, and not a lot of people can say that,” Ross said. “I’ve been doing this for years now, and I’ve gotten better and better everywhere I’ve been, and now I’m blessed to have another opportunity.”